(From March 2008)
I'm praying for Serena. I miss her when she doesn't stop by for Church.
Serena is among the most helpful of our volunteers. She will hand out bulletins or read one of the readings, she preaches during our open sermon, and prays during prayers of the people, she makes sure everyone gets a sandwich before she takes extra, and looks for gloves for people who don't have them.
Serena and her husband have housing: a rented room in one of Worcester's walk-up apartments. They've been homeless in the past and pray for people who are homeless every week.
A middle aged hispanic woman, her husband looks on adoringly as she goes on and on about how well she is doing staying sober this time. Serena tells us about her collection of figurines, about her job, about the church she attends Sunday mornings, about what she is reading, about her roommates, and who she talked to yesterday, and the day before. She takes one of everything we offer, and returns the favor by bringing us gifts--tracts and pamphlets from other churches, crosses, greeting cards, pens and the advertising tokens. In the year we have known her, Serena has gotten sober 4 or 5 times, the last time for almost 3 months.
Early on she only came to church if she was sober. She'd miss a week and then explain the next that she had had a little problem. We always respond: you are always welcome, no matter what. She smiles, and misses church again two weeks later.
Serena prays for sobriety, for a recovery program that will take someone with mental illness, for something to do at night when her brain is racing, for a re-connection with her 20 year old daughter. She gives praise for a landlord who lets her do chores for pay, for a good afternoon singing, for how wonderful her daughter is, and her husband, and for the leaders of Worcester Fellowship. She preaches on the how wonderful Jesus is, and comes each week with new news about learning to read the bible.
A few weeks ago I met her before worship. She was hollering words I couldn't understand.
"What is it?" I finally interjected in a way she could hear me.
"The police", she sobbed, "they are after me. They just keep threatening me." She could barely stand up and her breath was strong with alcohol.
I hugged her as she sobbed. "They took my husband. He's no good. They took him and now I'm homeless. Can you believe it? I'm homeless and the police want me."
"I'm heading up to worship, come on up."
"I'm drinking. I can't."
"You are always welcome at worship, Serena."
She continued non-stop until we got up the table, already set-up for worship. She turned to share her story with another frequent participant, and I turned to help Bill practice his reading. When worship started, I looked around and once again, she was gone.
Last Sunday Serena came to worship late, disheveled, and drunk. I came around and hugged her, and she sobbed.
"I'm glad you came," I tell her. "You are always welcome here, even when you are drinking."
She cries some more.
But she was there. She was there at worship. I'm praying for Serena.